OK, so I've been in my cubicle for two months now. Time for a progress report. I sent the following (mostly verbatim) email to my boss this morning. I know he can’t do anything about the cubicle situation right now (we're hoping for more offices in a year or two), but I just needed to register my complaint, if only to have it on record.
Just so ya know, I build distance-learning courses for a living. We're an accredited K-12 school within the university. Also, the Big Dog requested that we all start dressing more professionally (instead of in jeans), since we're right on campus now.
Since I have so little desktop space to lay out my work in progress, I brought a small (1’ x 2’) rolling cart from home (which I bought for the same purpose when a crazy-but-thankfully-gone-now boss stuck me in a little office with a small desk in the old building). Why do I need more desktop space? Because the raw materials for elementary courses are not all digital; they include a large binder full of worksheets, etc., plus 5-7 textbooks, all of which I need to consult while proofing/formatting the course. All three shelves of the rolling cart are now covered with elementary course books, which I have to rotate as I work on various parts of the courses.
I store the cart against the wall (under the window) when I leave for the day and roll it up against my left-hand cubicle wall when I’m working. I have to move it again if I want to get out of my cube. It’s like one of those tile games where you can only move one tile at a time to solve the puzzle. But I am sincerely trying to make this cubicle work.
Yesterday, I had my first meeting with an elementary course author in my cubicle. It was an exercise in farce. I had no place for her to sit while we discussed the problems that needed fixing in her course, so she sat on my mini-fridge. I had the binder set on top of another course’s binder on my rolling cart and the textbook for her course on my desk on top of materials for the other course. She needed a red pen to mark where to insert something in a lesson. Since my pencil drawer was blocked by the rolling cart, I moved it back, got the pen out, moved the cart up to the cube wall again.
So the author’s working while sitting on my fridge, with the binder on the cart and, when she needed it, the textbook in her lap, trying to look in four places at once while we figure things out. Everything started to slide so I reached to stop it and knocked my Dr.Pepper over, spilling some into my keyboard (not too bad, but I did blurt “Sh!t” in front of a nice old lady I’d never met before).
The author had to have space to lay out the binder in order to draw graphs for some missing answers, so we were lucky that the student assistants are already gone for the semester and the cube on the other side of mine was available. I guess if I’d had my wits about me, I could’ve met with her there. If it were the middle of a semester and the student was at that desk, though, we would’ve been outta luck. I felt so embarrassed about the situation--it was hardly what you would term “professional”.
The author got the answers written up, answered my other questions, I apologized for the mess and thanked her for coming in to help out.
I felt like a little match girl. Worse, a little match girl who’s forced to live in a matchbox.
Dressing in a professional manner doesn’t make a damn bit of difference if you look like one of the Three Stooges while you’re working.
Nothing can be done, but my boss replied, "Well said. I couldn't agree more. If there was anything I could do, I would." So at least I got sympathy.